Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika has pardoned three ruling party officials, a day after they were charged with treason for carrying guns to a meeting with him.

At a news conference in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, Thursday, Mr. Mutharika accused the three men - Alfred Mwechumu, Roy Coomsy and Harry Thomson - of plotting to assassinate him.

He said he pardoned the men but that does not, he says, "diminish the gravity of the situation."

The three politicians were first arrested on Monday after they were found with weapons as they headed to the meeting with the president in the commercial capital, Blantyre.

They were later released on bail, but were re-arrested Wednesday on new charges of treason. 

Officials said Monday's meeting was planned to seek ways to heal a rift within the ruling party.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.